DENVER– The state House passed the fiscal year 2013-2014 budget – known as the Long Bill – with bipartisan support Friday, 45 to 18.. Speeches – for and against the $20 billion budget – were laced with accusations and recriminations for the partisan politics played during the 12-hour debate on Thursday.
“We worked hard to find compromise on this budget,” declared House Speaker Mark Ferrandino of Denver. “There are a lot of things we can disagree on, but when we can find common ground, we can find compromise that is what we should do.”
“I am so disappointed and angry about the way I was treated and my caucus was treated during this debate,” said House Minority Leader Mark Waller, who added that he couldn’t recall a more contentious budget negotiation during his three terms in the state House.
Waller of Colorado Springs, who encouraged House Republicans to vote for the budget bill, chastised Rep. Crisanta Duran (D-Denver) for playing partisan games during the debate Thursday over more than 50 amendments, nearly all defeated by the majority party.
“Cheap parlor tricks are not what the state of Colorado needs to govern,” declared Waller. “When you kill an amendment at the eleventh hours and then you bring up to kill it again – that is not bipartisan.”
Ferrandino countered, “Partisan politics get played down here – we all know that, we all do it.”
It’s not new, said Ferrandino. “We need look no further than the second to the last day of session last year.”
Republicans, who then held a one-seat majority in the House, had sidelined Ferrandino’s bill to legalize same-sex civil unions. Gov. John Hickenlooper, who supported the measure, called a Special Session, but the bill died in a House committee.
To some it appeared Thursday that Duran had resurrected a rejected Republican amendment as retaliation for accusations that she had “earmarked” $4 million for architectural drawings for a $27 million renovation of the library on the Auraria campus in her district, HD 5.
The issue arose on the House floor when state Rep. Brian DelGrosso (R-Loveland) introduced an amendment to the Long Bill that would have redirected the $4 million to community colleges for vocational programs.
“I think it is inappropriate for us to earmark money for something special in our districts,” declared DelGrosso, who added that he didn’t mean to “impugn the motives of any person.”
A member of the Joint Budget Committee, Duran had requested funding for the project during a March 21 JBC meeting. But, the library renovation was listed as “not recommended for funding” by the Capital Development Committee which prioritizes such projects and submits budget requests to the JBC.
“We have a process that was completely circumvented,” declared Waller of Duran’s actions.
Duran told the House that the funding request – originally $14 million cut to $4 million – had passed unanimously in the JBC.
“The $4 million, this particular item, is what allowed us to close the budget because (Duran) would not come out of her office,” said state Rep.Cheri Gerou (R-Evergreen), a JBC member.
“I was trying to slam the door on this tantrum of temper,” Gerou.
Duran snapped, “Your vote was not necessary to close the budget.”
Like other Republican-sponsored amendments to the Long Bill, DelGrosso’s failed.
“It’s going to make it hard going forward,” said Waller of debating a proposed $1 million statewide tax increase to fund public schools and oil and gas regulation bills that may “chase jobs out of the state ofColorado.”
Democrats killed numerous amendments, including one proposed by state Rep. Robert Rankin (R-Carbondale) to appropriate $1 million to the state Tourism Office for a public relations effort to explain three gun-control measures signed into law by Hickenlooper.
Because of those laws, hunting groups are promoting a boycott against Colorado, and some shooting clubs have already cancelled travel plans to come to the state. Some fear the loss of millions of dollars in tourism, which would deliver another economic blow to Colorado’s Western Slope which is well known for elk hunting.
Republicans won budget amendments to retire $142 million of a debt owed to the pension fund of firefighters and police officers and restore funding to compensate some victims of the Lower North Fork fire.
However, they lost amendments that included cuts to funds for additional oil and gas inspectors, background checks for gun transfers, and the Colorado Energy Office, which failed to justify $252 million in spending over the past five years.
Republicans also attempted to pass a footnote directing the government to provide services for several thousand developmentally disabled individuals before allocating more funds to Medicaid or ObamaCare – but the Democrats killed that request.
Ferrandino maintained that the “budget represents the views of people on both sides of the aisle and the values of the people of Colorado.”